Happy Endings Don Roos

After a five-year hiatus following the critical disaster that was his follow up to The Opposite of Sex (the Paltrow/Affleck duet, Bounce), it was uncertain whether writer/director Don Roos would fall into "one hit wonder" status that haunts so many up-and-coming directors. But with last summer's Happy Endings, Roos proves his buzz was not unfounded with a small and quirky film that was essentially ignored in its theatrical release. However, with a wonderfully clever and introspective script and a fine group of actors, Endings will hopefully find its happy ending on the shelves of DVD stores. Weaving together the lives of ten flawed characters, Roos manages to avoid the clichés of such a multi-story narrative (a feat not accomplished by a film that was a huge success: the horribly overrated Crash). He also avoids the preaching that also often comes with such films (also see Crash) by layering the drama with dark comedy and unpretentious themes. The plot is simple and generally uneventful: Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) is conning Nicky (Jesse Bradford) by allowing him to film a documentary about her immigrant boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) so she can find her birth son she secretly had with her stepbrother, Charley (Steve Coogan), who is now gay and trying to find out if he and his boyfriend (David Sutcliffe) have been conned by a lesbian couple (Laura Dern and Sarah Clarke) into donating sperm for their child. Charley and Mamie's inherited restaurant is going under, but still employs Otis (Jason Ritter), a closeted musician whose father (Tom Arnold) is pining for his girlfriend (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Got it? The actors are amazing and perfectly cast, particular Kudrow, Coogan, Arnold and Gyllenhaal. The DVD is pretty low-key, but some of the extras are fantastic, particularly some worthy deleted scenes and cute bloopers. The commentary by Roos and Kudrow is similarly fun, but it's the film that's worthy of your attention. Like its characters, Happy Endings is flawed, but Roos's writing and ability to get his actors to bare themselves in raw, honest portrayals of troubled characters elevate it. (Maple)